“One of the worst things a white person does not want to be smeared with is… racism.”
This is the message radical Islamic influencer Mohammed Hijab gave to his supporters during a lecture at the University of Toronto last week. The topic? Figuring out the best way to shut up “white people” who support Israel.
To be clear, Hijab is not the stereotypical Islamist. He is not a man who advocates violence, and not only frequently denounces terrorism, but often mocks the likes of ISIS for its failure to properly uphold Islamic values.
That is not to say we in the West should view Hijab as a moderate. In a very technical sense he is a radical. Almost all of his content revolves around the propagation of Islam, especially in the West. His channel boasts videos on how to “conquer” atheism, as well as one explaining why masturbation is “haram”.
While Hijab appears radical in his thought, this does not translate to any attempt on his part to propel his beliefs using violence.
Instead, Hijab opts to publicly advocate for his technically radical version of Islam using social media, frequently uploading videos of himself ‘owning’ liberals, atheists and Christians with dawah and logic to his YouTube channel boasting one million subscribers.
The key word here is publicly.
At the University of Toronto, Hijab was not dealing with the general public per se. He was addressing people who largely share his views. Amid frequent shouts of “Allahu Ackbar”, Hijab did not advocate for the use of decent arguments and public debate to push Islam. He advocated for the use of rhetorical tricks instead.
Speaking to the gathered crowd, Hijab described Muslims as being unfairly persecuted by the West for their support for Palestine. According to Hijab, those trying to defend Palestine are all being labelled as terrorist sympathisers for doing so. This, in his view, is a cynical attempt to cancel such individuals by those who support Israel.
So what is Hijab’s advice for the crowd? Should they try to argue against these accusations? No. They should accuse them of being racist instead.
According to Hijab, logical arguments are “not the most powerful way to convince people”. He emphasised that despite being a philosopher by training and literally in the business of selling arguments backing the Islamic faith, very few people ultimately are swayed by logically formed theses.
Instead, Hijab describes people as being swayed by social and rhetorical force. As such, Muslims fighting for Palestine must portray themselves as being philosophically, socially and rhetorically dominant over the “enemies of Islam”.
“If they sniff from you fear, hesitation, worry, they will take advantage of you,” he said.
“Attitude eats arguments for breakfast. It’s all about the attitudes you have.”
One of his best ways to undermine the “enemies of Islam” is to accuse them of being racist, with Hijab describing one experience of how his mere mention of the word impacted white people he was speaking with.
“One of them started stuttering, the other one started producing diarrhoea in the stomach, and the other one actually soiled himself,” he said with a grin, prompting laughter from his many allies the room.
Of course, we can be pretty confident that Hijab is exaggerating for comedic effect here, but the message itself is serious.
According to this influential Muslim speaker, instead of trying to debate Westerners who try to challenge Islamism as well as the recent attacks on Israel civilians, those supporting Palestine should try to smear them as a racist instead as it will be more effective.
Personally, I think Hijab is right.
I feel it goes without saying that most people in public life these days fold like a deck-chair the minute they are accused of being racist. For all this talk of “fascism” and the “far-right” paraded around by progressives, it seems like even accusing someone of holding bigoted views on race is like kryptonite to almost everyone residing within the Overton window.
This is a fair response, at least to a degree. As a society, we have largely moved beyond judging – let alone attacking – people based on their innate characteristics. In the modern world, a racist is not merely an immoral actor, but a sort of heretical barbarian from a bygone age. The term is a slight against almost every aspect of a person’s existence, the gravity of which can easily damage a person’s public reputation.
It also has a sense of majesty to it. The modern West fondly remembers those who first fought racism. The likes of Martin Luther King Jr. hold a near-sacred place in the public consciousness, a veritable secular saint of the free world. We all want to be like King. We all want to take up arms against moral and intellectual depravity. To stand up for what is right and fight against what is wrong.
When it is suggested by sincere actors that we may be what is wrong, what is worth fighting against, that often shakes us to our very core.
But Hijab – in this case at least – is not a sincere actor. In this lecture, he has clearly admitted that his accusations of racism are ultimately a sleight of hand. An attempt to move the pain away from the accusations faced by pro-Palestine activists that they are ultimately supporting terrorists and towards the aforementioned “enemies of Islam”.
Why does Mohammed Hijab get away with this parlour trick? Hell, why does any Islamist or anti-Western extremist get away with it? The gambit is clear: they are using our own values to distract us, to prevent us from backing our allies and their enemies.
When they sling insults at us, call us racist, they are not trying to further some sort of debate. They are not trying to stand up for Western values as we have known them for centuries, nay, millennia. They are trying to subvert those values for their own gain.
And we keep letting them do it.
We in the West need to make a choice. Do we keep allowing those who hold views fundamentally opposed to our value set, our ways of life, to dictate to us our own beliefs and moral structure?
Or do we cast away their attacks, their skin-deep attempts to use our own values against us, and instead stand up to their attempts to undermine our way of life?
Because, even if Hijab is not the kind of man to use tanks and bombs to enforce his point of view, his ultimate aim is to bend the entire West to the ways of the Islamic faith. A faith that, fundamentally, is at odds with many of our core values, including religious pluralism and freedom of thought and speech.
If we truly treasure these values, then we are going to have to start defending them.